In the last five weeks there have been seven substantive documents written on the topic of the company's strategy. They all have their own viewpoint, delivered from their own vantage point: Equity, the actors union, the Writers Guild, the dramatists of Wales, a lecturer in Yorkshire, and the company statement itself.

Two important voices have not been heard. One is that of the audience. To set the balance right the voices of the audience should be part of it. There must be theatre-goers of Wales who are supportive of the company.

Any comments but, please, only from people who are genuinely independent, not PhD students, or participants or recipients of other patronage. And about the primary mission of making theatre.

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Comment by alun howell on October 29, 2018 at 12:16

I can only speak about The Persians which was everything you said it was. That was seen by a very limited audience, unfortunately, who had to endure a fairly arduous trip in the rain in borrowed plastic macs to see a superb performance. That production had taken years of preparation because of external factors (take a bow the Ministry of Defence!) and even now there is no widely available video copy of a unique occasion. There will never be a performance like it again.

As you say 'there seem to be fewer productions recently' which is close to the centre of the recent complaints. In fact an alleged quote (from one of the closed meetings?) that the NTW wanted to 'devolve' theatre (in a country so small?) and 'destabilize' Welsh theatre. If this is a serious proposition then can I suggest this can easily be achieved by the NTW dissolving itself?

Comment by John Atkinson on October 29, 2018 at 9:43

Without exception, every one of the NTW productions I have attended have been exceptional.  Most have been in & around Cardiff - though further afield The Persians, Coriolanus and Mametz were outstanding.  But there seem to have been fewer productions recently,  My only general criticism is that production runs are too short (by the time I've got round to arranging a party to attend a show, it's sold out} and no account seems to be taken of clashes with major sporting events ... I get the impression NTW doesn't expect culture lovers to have an interest in sport!  I'm looking forward to more site-specific theatrical productions.

Comment by Kenneth Griffin on October 28, 2018 at 5:25
Comment by alun howell on October 28, 2018 at 2:58

I would, speaking as a independent voice, would suggest that people who's livelihoods depend on NWT's present and future policy have every right to a say in that policy - more than mere observers. I'm not too sure that a comedy night clinches your case for supporting the NTW but I don't want to get involved with an argument about what is Welsh and what isn't. To me  the attitude is more important but this has to include wholehearted support for the Welsh language. What does concern me and anyone who is interested and supportive of Welsh theatre is, going by various comments I have picked up, is an almost anti-theatre policy - a policy that values non-theatrical activities above theatre performances. I would love to be proved wrong but I can't find Kully Thiarai long response perhaps you can help me with this? I should say that I will read it with the understanding that she, of all people, has a vested interest in all of this.

Comment by Kenneth Griffin on October 28, 2018 at 1:21

As an audience member, this affair has seemed quite distasteful. The gripes are patently genuinely heartfelt but they come from groups with vested interests and are argued with biased analysis of reality.

On quantifying the rate of productions, 2017 was indeed a lean year but 2018 has been a bumper year. NTW has always programmed flexibly.

On including a comedy night in the NHS70 season, there is a theatrical element to stand-up, and the ticket pricing of the event would suggest that it was budgeted to break even and not to draw on NTW's financial resources.

On the new song in the NHS70 season, it was written and performed by a returning welsh NTW artist and was presented as a video of a staged performance.

On English, surely the Wales-based performer was also a primary artist, and their welsh experience of language with minimal exposure to Welsh is valid. And, on the night I attended, Welsh speakers in the audience participated forcibly in the show.

I shan't give my own comments on this matter except to say that it was good to read Kully Thiarai's long response and to know that NTW is so open to communicating with its critics.

Comment by Dr Tom Payne on October 27, 2018 at 23:51

Hi Adam,

Thanks for posting this. I agree, it would definitely be good to hear from audiences. If it's of any relevance to the summary piece you are writing, I do lecture at Sheffield Hallam University (Yorkshire), but I've lived in Abersywyth for 20 years and I've been making theatre in Wales as a student, a teacher and as a freelance artist since 1997. 

Good luck with your final piece for Theatre Wales, I look forward to reading it!


Comment by alun howell on October 27, 2018 at 22:29

I understand that feedback is necessary and you had mine, as an outsider. Two points that worry - I read your comment as that NWT policy of not putting on performances is 'written in stone' - similar to the 10 commandments presumably - will result adversely (close?) on existing bricks and mortar theatre up and down the land; but when you say that 'the site has given up theatre' which 'site' are we talking about?

Comment by Adam Somerset on October 27, 2018 at 21:08

Alun, thanks for the comment. I am sorry about the lack of clarity, not unusual for me. The reason for requesting feedback is that I write, for Theatre Wales, some summary pieces on the year each December. This is my final year of doing so.

The voices of critics and insiders are not enough- at the end of the day it is the citizens of Wales who go out to shows who matter, because they are the ones it is for. The company projects a kind of bond with Wales- which is why this site was set up as a forum. It is important to ask for some feedback.

The reason I asked for comment on theatre is that the company places enormous importance on activities that are not related to putting on performances. One of the 3 demands of the Welsh theatre professionals is that the company desist from this- and a reply is still awaited. It has changed to become the lowest productivity theatre company in the world- and although the company says nothing it looks as though this is set in stone. The site tells Wales it has now given up theatre for an unspecified period.

Comment by alun howell on October 27, 2018 at 10:09

I must express confusion about the last two paragraphs. The statement that two important voices have not been heard is promising as you go on to mention the audience but who is the other? The next sentence states that there must be theatre goers who are supportive of the company - yes, but why are they specifically invited to contribute? 

The last sentence about the primary mission of making theatre apparently refers again to the audience. Is the primary mission of the audience to make theatre? Or is it to take part in in theatre, enjoy and come back?

Let me state - I have been a totally independent audience member of various productions set in Wales and involving Welsh artistes and object strongly that the National Theatre of Wales does not have a policy which will support similar productions at the present time or in the future.

Also - as a totally independent theatre writer (without a PhD) having never had a any 'patronage' from any source I recognise that official bodies such as the NTW or the Welsh Arts Council do not and never will treat writers with any kind of respect and will not, under any circumstances, give them any money because they will only spend it.

I hope this clears your mind on the various points you have raised and I would suggest a series of public meetings  up and down Wales to sample the views of other interested parties.

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